The Family Justice Centre: access to family law help!


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By: Hilary Linton and Cathi Wentworth 

Toronto Family Mediation Services ( 



We recently interviewed Jason Goodman, the Acting Director at the Family Justice Centre.  


This initiative, operated by Pro Bono Students Canada, hosts virtual legal clinics for Ontarians dealing with family law issues who are unable to afford a lawyer. 


We were interested in learning more about how the Family Justice Centre works because as mediators providing court-connected services, we work with many clients who are unrepresented by lawyers.  


Our mediators working in family courts are very good, and many of them are family lawyers themselves. But they cannot give legal advice on the settlements being made in mediation. We sometimes struggle to find affordable legal advice for our clients. 


The Family Justice Centre is a great resource for our (and other) clients because it helps those whose incomes are too high to qualify for legal aid services, but too low to afford a lawyer. 


Here is some of what we learned: 


TFMS: Tell me what kinds of legal help does the FJC provide? 


JG: We provide summary legal advice clinics that address most but not all family law issues. For instance, we can help with parenting arrangements, child support, and spousal support, as well as related court processes. We do not deal with property division, divorce, or child protection matters. And we do not have the capacity to help with urgent matters. 


TFMS: Who provides the summary legal advice? 


JG: All legal advice is provided by a roster of family lawyers who volunteer their time and expertise through the Family Justice Centre. These pro bono lawyers supervise our team of student caseworkers who come from every law school in Ontario. Every client of the Family Justice Centre is supported by a pro bono lawyer working with a student caseworker. 


TFMS: How do people access the service? 


JG: Anyone who is interested can phone our intake line during one of our four weekly intake timeslots. The dates and times are set out on our website, and we have many students available to take calls at 647-952-3354. The intake student will check to see if the caller meets the financial eligibility requirements, and if the subject matter is something we can handle. If they are, then an appointment will be made then and there for the next available clinic. The dates of the clinics are also on our website. 


TFMS: This is such a great service. Many of our clients in mediation cannot afford a lawyer, yet they could use some legal advice before or after their mediation. Is there a long wait list for the clinics? 


JG: Not really, no! We still have some room at our next clinic and other clinics this fall.  


TFMS: The court-connected mediators work closely with other services, including those supporting survivors of family violence. Does the FJC provide legal advice in cases involving domestic violence concerns? 


JG: In order to provide safe and supportive services, the Family Justice Centre is only able to assist with cases involving domestic violence if the client is referred to us through our partnership with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. When we receive these referrals, we connect the clients with lawyers on our roster who have experience assisting survivors of domestic violence, while the client continues to benefit from the additional supports of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. If we are contacted by a survivor of domestic violence who is not yet working with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, we will refer them to that clinic to facilitate these wrap-around services. 


TFMS: Aside from summary legal advice, what other services does the FJC provide? 


JG: We also provide help completing many types of court forms, where the supervising lawyer feels it is appropriate for the student to do so. This is a very helpful service as there are few pro bono options for this type of support. 


TFMS: Is there anything else you would want our readers to know about the FJC? 


JG: We are here to help. We can always use more supervising lawyers too, so please reach out if you are a family lawyer and want to join our roster or learn more. 

Family Law Information Centres (FLIC)

You can learn much more about available services, mediation, court process, separation, divorce and the law by visiting us at one of our Family Law Information Centres (FLIC).


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